Sim­plic­ity is the key for UT de­fen­sive line

Beavers’ run­ning game gets help but their pass pro­tec­tion still needs work.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING -

Part 6 of a col­lab­o­ra­tion by the Amer­i­canS­tates­man and The Ore­go­nian, break­ing down po­si­tion-by-po­si­tion matchups in ad­vance of the Alamo Bowl on Satur­day.

To­day’s match up: Ore­gon State’s of­fen­sive line vs. Texas’ de­fen­sive line.

Texas: When the Longhorns play sim­ple along the line, they tend to fare bet­ter; they have run a ton of twists, stunts and pre-snap shifts through­out the sea­son that have done more harm than good. De­fen­sive end Alex Okafor’s eight sacks lead the team and are third in the Big 12, and his 11.5 tack­les for loss are sixth-best in the con­fer­ence. The num­bers for this unit took a hit when Jack­son Jef­f­coat was lost for the sea­son. Fresh­men Mal­com Brown (a de­fen­sive tackle) and Shiro Davis (a de­fen­sive end) could get a lot of reps; they could be primed for mak­ing big im­pacts next fall. A lot of the team’s strug­gles against the run — Texas al­lows 198.7 yards — can be placed at the feet of the front four.

Ore­gon State: The re­turn of the Beavers’ run­ning game (126.2 yards a game) is a di­rect re­sult of the of­fen­sive line’s im­prove­ment this sea­son, but its pass pro­tec­tion still needs work (23 sacks al­lowed). Fresh­man cen­ter Isaac Seu­malo has an­chored the line all sea­son, a ma­jor ac­com­plish­ment for a true fresh­man. Will he get rat­tled in the bowl game or re­main his steady self? The line has been plagued by dumb penal­ties this year and will need to make sure it is sharp from the get-go against Texas.

Hookem.com’s Dave Behr says: Push. Any team go­ing against Texas is go­ing to have a tough time stop­ping Okafor. But out­side of the All-Big 12 per­former, it’s a year away from be­ing a great unit.

The Ore­go­nian’s Lindsay Sch­nell says: Slight edge to Texas. Okafor is one of the best de­fen­sive ends in the coun­try, and the Beavers will have their hands full try­ing to slow him down.

Tues­day’s match up: Texas’ wide re­ceivers vs. Ore­gon State’s de­fen­sive backs.

RALPH BARRERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

De­fen­sive end Alex Okafor leads the Longhorns with eight sacks.

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